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Cutting tools

The future is digital. Cutting Tools makers are gearing up for Industry 4.0 and seeking out new methods for condition monitoring.

by Jayashree Kini Mendes

For companies embracing the era of Industry 4.0, technology goes beyond making maximum use of their tools. A big part of Industry 4.0 is how it collects data to facilitate a production process as transparent as possible. In this light, cutting tools, whether it’s turning, milling or drilling, are expected to get smarter with sensors as they can offer feedback. Sensors in cutting tools are usually used to predict the tool failure, provide signal to machine to stop and retract the tool from work piece based on wear and cutting load detection. Simultaneously, there is a kind of rush among machine tool manufacturers to launch and introduce sensor embedded tools, if they haven’t done so already. Chandrashekar Sharma, VP, KMT Tooling & Machining Solutions Group, says, “This is a decade old technology, but what is new is “Machine Monitoring Systems and Controls”. An external device/controls configured to use the machine input/output signals which can then detect every aspect of machine tool utilisation thereby providing further scope for productivity and optimisation. When machines are managed remotely or unmanned, condition monitoring becomes naturally important. There are tools and techniques available which will also be part of Industry 4.0 and Kennametal is working towards this goal.”

The digital factory (Industry 4.0; in the US: Industrial Internet of Things – IIoT) has led to significant changes in tool technology. Ramakant Reddy, MD, LMT Tools India, says, “This is the way we are going. We already have smart and actuatory tools in our portfolio like the automatically adjustable line boring bars. These compensable tools define a totally new tool generation. What is new is that for the finishing of the bores these tools are equipped with an internal tie rod to permit the cutting blades to be readjusted automatically and thus compensate for wear of the blades. This means that time-consuming readjustment of each individual blade is no longer necessary and that the circularity, coaxiality and surface quality of the bores are extremely precise.”

Normally, such an actuatory process takes place via a measuring control circuit. First the bearing bore is measured. Next the actual value of the diameter is passed to the machine control and the measuring computer compares this actual value with the required tolerances. The cutting blades are then fully automatically readjusted to the new diameter. The result is a significant increase in workpiece quality and economy.

Sensors and feedback are all about part condition, machine dynamics and cutting tool health. Prashant Sardeshmukh, director, MMC Hardmetal India, says that such data could increase the Material Removal Rate (MRR) of substances like titanium alloys. “Traditional machining practices are based on certain thumb rules, whereas sensor equipped smart tools would lead to more optimal conditions, reduction in costs, increase in MRR and improvement in machining quality. However, I don’t think this development will be as smooth as it is expected. There are constraints,” he says.

Actually, sensing technology and process control are the important elements of CNC automation, but the machining Industry is a little averse to embrace high-bandwidth sensors for process feedback. “This approach is largely because of constraints in practical implementations and high cost involved in machine-tool sensor products. Nevertheless, engineering professionals related to metal cutting industry and research labs are looking forward to see this development come through,” he adds. MMC Hardmetal India is bracing for this change and upgrading itself in terms of skills and knowledge to stay competitive. As an engineering professional, Sardeshmukh feels, that this development would usher us in the new realm of opportunities. The industry should therefore happily embrace this change.

It is heartening to know that tool makers are working out ways to meet the new benchmarks expected of them from their customers. For instance, Walter Tools AG recently took on board a long-standing software partner Comara to create a new company under joint leadership. Brajesh Kumar, MD, Walter Tools India, says, “It was a strategic step towards expanding our digital portfolio and working towards Industry 4.0. Comara specialises in collecting, evaluating and using real-time data to connect machines. Together with Walter, the company also develops software solutions for connecting all devices in the production environment: From machines and tools through to logistics and databases.

Walter AG is expanding its expertise with Comara and will therefore be able to connect tools with greater sophistication and optimise them using real-time data in future. Combined with the Walter Tool.ID, this will give rise to the production of “smart tools” in future. With “appCom”, Comara offers machine manufacturers and industrial companies their own platform for individual “apps” – special software modules in the production environment. The aim is to develop further solutions and make them available to other machine and device manufacturers and to end users.

By widening their portfolio, tool makers can support customers across process steps. In a first step, they can offer monitoring service of the machining process. Camilla Engbrink, VP, product management and R&D, Sandvik Coromant, says, “We are launching sensor embedded damped boring bars in end 2017. The CoroPlus platform forms a digital thread right through the customer’s value chain, from design, process and operations planning through production logistics and machining to verification and outbound logistics.”

Charting new territories Cutting tool technology is evolving rapidly to respond to new demands, more challenging workpiece materials, new geometrics, coatings, digitisation, and green requirements. As use of metals increase across applications, there’s a need to reinvent metal cutting technologies. Kumar of Walter Tools says that in the course of advancing globalisation and ever faster development cycles, competition among manufacturing companies is increasingly more intense. Many manufacturers are finding it difficult to keep up with the latest developments in the tool market while ensuring their own processes represent state-of-the-art production engineering and technologies. With Production Solutions, Walter Multiply has integrated its expertise in tool manufacturing throughout the entire process into an efficient service concept, which enables companies to benefit from technological developments, even under challenging conditions.

The ever increasing automation and demand for zero defect tolerance are the major driving forces across sectors. Sardeshmukh says that his company’s endeavour is to contribute to best engineering practices, quality and productivity improvement. “We now extend support in terms of Vibration & Noise Analysis, Chip Form Analysis and Structural Analysis of work piece. Vibration and noise in metal cutting remains a grey area because it involves friction. However, with advancements in metallurgy, machining practices and sophistication in machine and cutting tools, this problem can be controlled,” he adds.
The key point for the user is to further reduce the cost per part. Especially in large series production, this can be achieved by developing tailor-made tool systems for specific applications. Reddy says, “We offer multifunctional gear cutting systems which can also be used for hob cutting and chamfering or special tools for turbochargers which can be used multifunctionally for reaming, face milling and circular milling. Finishing tools are becoming more important for two reasons: Near net shape technology forming procedures mean that only the nearly final contour of the material needs to be machined with cutting tools; secondly, As additive manufacturing becomes more important, the workpieces also only need to undergo a final finishing process.”

In general, there is an increased buying power in combination with sustainability as a main driver for changes in key industry segments. Engbrink says that the interesting changes taking place in automotive with the change from combustion engine, to hybrid and further on to electrical cars are something that they are following keenly. “The changes are driving the use of different components in the car engine and we will have selected solutions in place to be able to produce these. Within aerospace, we work with tech centers to secure that we are following the shift of new materials and components for the increased demand of no of aircraft,” she adds. Sandvik Coromant continuously works with high performant grades and last year they introduced two CBN grades for hard part turning that secures high productivity and great surface finish. It has extended the assortment for the GC1130, which is the best PVD grade on the market using the Zertivo coating technology. New turning grades for steel and stainless steel materials, GC4335 and GC2220, have been launched in the beginning of 2017 as well.
In energy and general engineering, there is a strong need to drill bigger diameter holes to greater depths with high precision. For this, Kennametal has launched KSEM Plus with DPA guide pads. This provides greater stability for the drill inside the hole and ensures precision, productivity and lesser cost per hole.

The latest innovative designs in cutting tools are more importantly about new turning grades for heat resistant alloys. MMC Hardmetal has introduced MP9005, MP9015 & MT9015 turning grades which facilitate easy cutting of difficult-to-cut materials such as titanium alloys and Inconel. It has applied Miracle Sigma Coating Technology for MP9005 & MP9015 grades which stabilise the high hardness phase, and also improves crater wear and welding resistance. Mitsubishi has also launched large diameter series of MVS (internal coolant) and MVE (external coolant) solid carbide drills in WSTAR series with TRI-Cooling Technology. This is used in automotive, construction machinery, ship-building, heavy engineering industry etc.
Efforts are always on for manufacturing excellence through better machining practices. And when it comes to advanced machining, it is bound to boost cutting tools sales.


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May 2019
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